This year, National Bike to School Day is May 10. Are you ready? Read this post for our tips for biking to school with your young ones.
This is a guest post from Elsbeth, one of our brand ambassadors in Chicago. All photos are hers at @elsbethcool.
My kids and I are wrapping up our third year of commuting to school by bike. It began as an attempt to avoid the hassle of navigating rush hour public transit with two kids, and quickly evolved into one of our favorite daily rhythms. My daughter’s school is a little over two miles away from home and an easy 12-14 minute bike ride on quiet neighborhood streets. I find the non-strenuous exercise of pedaling our electric assist cargo bike helps wake me up and always improves my mood. The fresh air and time outside seems to have the same effect on my children; even if we leave the house frustrated over lost socks and missing shoes, by the time we arrive at our destination, everyone is cheered up and ready for school to begin. There’s just something intangibly and irresistibly joyful about riding a bike!
We also love the way riding to school constantly connects us to our neighborhood and community. It’s easy to pull over and chat with friends for a minute, say good morning to our neighbors as we head out, and observe the slow shifts of the seasons. We experience the small details and vibrant life in our neighborhood on a level that is totally lost when driving.
Our personal experience rings true with current research on the benefits of walking or biking to school. From People for Bikes: “A study of nearly 20,000 Danish children ages 5-19 showed that walking or biking to school improved concentration and puzzle solving skills for up to four hours. Biking or walking to school had even more of an impact on kids’ ability to concentrate than what the students ate for breakfast and lunch.” National Bike to School Day (May 10) is the perfect time to start enjoying these benefits!
Some tips for National Bike to School Day:
- Prepare your bike(s) the night before. Make sure you have helmets, locks, lights, kid seats, and anything else ready to go. This keeps the morning rush at its normal level of crazy, instead of making it worse!
- Carrying stuff: can your kids handle their backpacks on their bikes, or do you need to plan for some extra cargo? Cargo bikes are unbeatable for their ability to accommodate an entire family’s worth of backpacks (and more!), but racks, baskets, and bags can handle more than you might think.
- Find a quiet route. I could shave a couple of minutes off our ride if we took busier streets, but our quiet neighborhood side streets offer a lovely way off the beaten path (and a far less stressful ride). A little clicking around on Google Maps may reveal a route suited for families and young riders.
- If you have independent riders, review the rules of the road before leaving and make sure expectations are clear. Many schools organize “bike trains” for National Bike to School Day. You can find participating schools in your area here.
- Snacks and water. Excellent for bribing hangry young riders or passengers, especially on the ride home from school.
Take it slow and enjoy the ride! I always try to remember that it’s not a race, and if we’re going to be late to school, at least we got to spend those few minutes outside, enjoying a little exercise and fresh air.